If there's one thing clear about the human animal and disasters, it's that humans are unpredictable when faced with a crisis situation. Not only are they unpredictable to others, but unless they have a lot of experience in having been in repeated crises situations, they are unpredictable to themselves as well.
If there's ever a time when we all need to be able to think clearly, it's in the midst of a crisis. Yet, that's the one time when we can count on the mind shutting off and going blank. This is largely due to the adrenalin that's flowing through our veins in such a moment, preparing us to fight or flee.
Planners and trainers from the military to firefighters to martial arts experts all know about this propensity for the mind to turn off in the midst of a crisis. That's why there is so much emphasis in these areas to rely on muscle memory; training the body over and over again to react, without having to stop and think about one's options.
But most people don't have this training; so they are much more likely to react out of emotion, especially fear. Their emotions will grab hold of anything that's going on, accepting it as their own and flowing with it. When a lot of people do this together, it can become extremely dangerous.
We've seen mob situations on the rise recently, stemming out of the protests that #BlackLivesMatter have staged. Since that movement has grown legs, I think we can expect to see more. But don't think that they are the only ones who can use mob violence to their advantage. In any crisis, you can be sure that there are those who are ready and willing to turn up the heat, creating a violent situation for their personal benefit or the benefit of their movement.
Understanding Mob Psychology
The typical mob doesn't start out to be a mob. People don't leave their homes in the morning, thinking, "let's go be part of a mob today." Generally speaking, the people who become the mob leave their homes with some sort of grievance. They head for the center of town, where they can attempt to make their voice heard by their political leadership.
This could be a spontaneous event or a planned one, it really doesn't matter. About the only difference is that a planned event will usually have a larger turnout. But a spontaneous crowd, when motivated by a sudden crisis, can reach huge proportions, all on its own.
There's always the possibility that a planned event may actually be planned by those who want to turn the protest into mob violence for their own nefarious purposes. But even if they aren't the original planners, they could grasp hold of an event that someone else is holding and take it over. With that many people gathered together, turning the discontent into anger and the anger into action isn't all that hard.
The people in the crowd are usually hurt, scared, confused, frustrated and a little angry too. That's a dangerous mix of emotions. Just look at what happens in your home when those emotions surface, they cause chaos. The emotions flow from one person to another, until the whole family ends up angry. Now multiply that by a thousand, and you get an idea of what happens in a mob.
Strong negative emotions are contagious. What starts with one person, quickly spreads to another. If that didn't happen, couples would never have fights. The hurt and anger of one partner would be responded to with peace and understanding, putting the anger to rest. But that rarely happens; when our partner is angry with us and expressing that anger, we tend to get angry too, joining in on their anger and throwing it back at them.
We think that we are mature enough to control our emotions, but we aren't. Many times, it's our emotions that control us, rather than the other way around. That's what turns a crowd of protestors into an angry, violent mob.
In the mob, people lose their identity. Rather than being concerned about doing something wrong, which could get them in trouble with the law, they feel protected from being recognized. That breaks down inhibitions, causing people to do things that they wouldn't otherwise do.
As in a family argument, the people in the mob adopt the emotions of the mob as their own. If everyone is angry, then they are angry. If everyone is yelling, then they yell too. If everyone shakes their fist in the air, then their fist is up there, shaking as hard as they can. In such an environment, it is very easy for normally calm, law-abiding people to rise up and take part in violent acts.
You can't reason with individuals in the mob, you have to let the anger burn out. Nor can you really direct that anger in any way. People who are "professionals" at using mob violence really don't control the mob; they just give the mob a kick start. Once it's going, they really don't have any control over it. About the most they can do is offer a direction for the violent expression to take; but it may not work out the way they plan.
Avoidance, the Best Defense
Your best means of dealing with any mob situation is to avoid it. It's one thing to do that, once the news is interrupting their programming to report on the mob's actions; but what about before that? What can you do then?
More than anything, avoiding a mob means avoiding being in places where a mob could start. That requires being aware of public opinion and the public mood. If people are angry or scared by something that's happening, then the last thing you want to do is to go downtown and hang out in front of City Hall. That's the most likely place for a mob to form.
The thing is, an angry crowd can turn into a mob without any notice. One minute they're standing there, listening to a speech and the next moment they're tearing things up and overturning cars.
So if something is happening or has just happened, which is likely to result in people gathering to protest, realize the risk and stay away. Adding your voice to the protest, assuming that you're in agreement with them, isn't going to make a bit of difference. So why bother going and risking being there when things turn ugly?
Avoiding doesn't just mean avoiding the actual protest, but avoiding being anywhere nearby. Mobs tend to act like a vortex, sucking things in. So if you happen to be close, there's a chance that you'll be sucked in too. If not, then you'll be seen as an enemy and are likely to be attacked as such.
Once again, keeping informed is the best way of knowing what and where to avoid, so that you can avoid the mob. When a protest turns into a mob, it's rather spectacular, so you can count on the news media reporting it. The mainstream media will even interrupt their normal programming to report it, if it is serious enough.
What if You're Caught?
Of course, avoidance can't guarantee you 100 percent that you won't get caught by a mob. The news media may not know what's going on. The mob could start when you are there, changing from peaceful to violent in a flash. The mob could start moving, with you right in their path.
Of these possibilities, the one that is the most dangerous is when the crowd turns into a mob around you. The sudden change could leave you trapped, without any chance for escape. You could end up being the victim of the mob's violence, before you even know anything is happening.
So what do you do if you're suddenly caught by a mob? How can you survive this dangerous situation, without either a trip to the hospital or becoming a part of the mob yourself? How can you avoid their attention and extract yourself from danger, without any help?
To start with, you need to realize that it's up to you to get yourself out of there. Nobody is going to come and rescue you. If they tried, they'd probably be overcome and beaten by the mob. Even the police have to use special tactics, when dealing with mobs, as they are usually greatly outnumbered by the people in the mob. If they aren't careful, they can end up trampled underfoot.
Keep Your Cool
The first thing you have to do, to survive the mob is to keep your cool. Don't allow yourself to be caught up in all the negative emotional vibe that is going on around you. If you do, then you are very likely to become part of the mob yourself.
Keeping cool means stopping to calm yourself down. Some professionals who have to deal with emergency situations have learned how to do this as an automatic reaction. While everyone else is working themselves up into a frenzy, they are actually slowing down and relaxing.
By doing this, you are able to keep yourself thinking clearly, even though nobody else is. Getting away from that mob is going to require some very clear thought, so make yourself slow down, and don't panic.
Act Like You're One of Them
The next thing to do is act like you're part of the mob. If they are all yelling, then yell. If they all shake their fist in the air, then shake yours as well. If they start running, then run along. Just because you are going through the motions, doesn't mean that you have to accept the mob's emotions. Be careful to differentiate between the two.
Mobs are likely to attack anyone that they recognize as being an outsider. By acting like them, you make yourself part of the mob, giving yourself some level of protection. But if you just stand there or act like you are against the mob, you will become a target.
Of course, there are some limitations to what you should do. You don't want to enter into any illegal activities, just because the mob is doing them. If they start rocking a bus to overturn it, then you don't want to be part of it. If they break into a store to loot it, you don't need to go inside. For that matter, you don't even need to throw a rock. But you should look like you're with them by yelling and shaking your fist in the air while others are doing so. You've got to realize that these illegal activities are usually undertaken by only a small portion of the mob, so you can avoid participating, while still seeming like you're a part.
The absolute worst thing you can do is to try to fight the mob. If there's any place where carrying a firearm is more useless than in the middle of a mob, I don't know where it is. No matter how much ammunition you have for that gun, it won't be enough. So, you're better off keeping it holstered and trying to get away. Don't bring it out unless you have to... that means a direct threat to your safety.
The problem with a firearm in that situation is that there are more of them than you have bullets. So, even if you manage to kill off a few people right around you, the mob will probably sweep over you, taking your gun away from you and beating you unconscious, if not to death.
You can say the same for pretty much any weapon or means of self-defense. You could be a black belt in Karate, but that won't keep the mob itself from beating you. Chuck Norris himself, or Neo from the Matrix, probably couldn't fight their way through a mob, without ultimately being overcome. It's not an issue of skill; it's a matter of sheer numbers.
I remember seeing a video of a man in a car, who decided he'd just drive through the mob. He started pushing them aside with his car, trying to make his way through. That didn't gain him more than a couple of feet before the mob stopped him, turning his car over and dragging him from it. He would have been better off just sitting there in it, waiting for the mob to move on.
Getting Away from the Mob
What we've talked about so far should keep you from harm, but that doesn't mean you're safe yet. It's one thing to avoid being pummeled by the mob, but another thing entirely to get away. Yet, get away you must, before there is a chance for the mob to turn against you.
As you are getting away, it's of crucial importance that you continue acting like you're part of the mob. So, don't try to walk away directly. Take things slow and easy. Any movements you make have to look like they fit in with the mob's activity.
Start by working your way to the edge of the mob, but not in a direct line. That direct line is a sure sign that you are not part of them. Rather, work your way from position to position, going at a tangent to get closer to the edge of the mob. A little acting wouldn't hurt at this point, pretending as if you are working your way over to a friend or to a vantage point where you can see better. Before getting there, pick your next point and start heading for it.
This is easier to do with a moving mob, than it is with a stationary one. If the mob is moving, the easiest way to work your way to the edge is to just move slower than the rest of the mob. You could simply act like you run slow or pretend to be injured. Running or walking with a limp makes you move slower and yet doesn't look like you are intentionally trying to get away.
As the mob moves past you, you will eventually find yourself on the edge. You're not home free yet, but you're close. Now all you need is an opportunity to slip away.
Slipping Away from the Mob
The actual moment of breaking away from the mob has to be carefully timed and exquisitely planned. What you want to do is to disappear in such a way that nobody sees you doing it. If you are in the city, opportunities will present themselves for this. But if you are in a large open area, this will be very difficult.
By opportunities, I'm referring to darkened doorways, alleyways and passageways between buildings; maybe even the back of an open truck that you could jump inot. If your movement has put you on the sidewalk, then ducking into one of these can happen in a moment, effectively giving the impression that you disappeared. Unless someone is looking directly at you when you leave, you won't be missed.
Making a break like this is usually easiest when you are able to see the opportunity arriving and have a few minutes to prepare for it. Look around to see if anyone is watching you. Take some time to get yourself in the right position; and then, when the time is right, move quickly, before anyone can notice.
Clear the Area
Once you've actually made a break from the mob, others can help you. This is the time to take out your cell phone and call for help. Call a friend or family member and arrange for them to pick you up.
You don't want them to come to the location where you are to pick you up, but rather one that's a couple of blocks away. Ideally, you need to pick out a location that's in a direction perpendicular to the one in which you're traveling. It needs to be someplace that they can get into and out of quickly, without any danger of running into the mob. Someplace with multiple routes in and out will help them avoid the mob.
Keep in contact with your ride, as you are both making your way to the meeting place. If the mob changes direction, you may need to reroute them to a new location. You also need to know when they are getting close, so that you can stay hidden as long as possible.
Making a Show of Force
If your home or business is in the area where the mob is operating, you've got a totally different situation to deal with. In that case, your problem isn't getting away from the mob, but rather keeping the mob away from you.
While mobs are usually bent on violence, it's unlikely that more than a few people in the mob will be prepared for violence. Only a small percent of the population walks around armed anyway and these are either people who have a concealed carry license or criminals who will avoid a mob situation, seeing it for the danger that it is. Within the mob, the only people who might be intentionally armed will be the organizers.
The organizers might be armed for one of two purposes. The first would be to protect themselves. They know how dangerous a mob can be and don't want to become a victim of their own work. The second reason is much more sinister. They might be armed so that they can try to seek out an opportunity to shoot the police, where it looks like someone else did it.
The reason I bring this up is that even though mobs are violent in their very nature, they are not equipped for a true fight. So, putting on a show of force can convince them to leave you alone. We saw this in the Ferguson upheaval, where some business owners protected their businesses. While others were looted and burned, their businesses were left alone.
In order to make an effective show of force, you have to have what will look to the mob like overwhelming force. In other words, don't try to be Rambo and stand out there by yourself. You'll need at least four or five heavily armed people to send that message.
Remember, you're not trying to start a fight, but rather prevent one. So, even though you're armed, you don't want to be overly aggressive. Rather, you want to adopt a defensive posture; making it clear that you aren't going to allow the mob to enter your place of business or home. That should be enough to convince the mob to look for another home or business to attack, leaving you alone.
Keep your team under tight emotional control if you're going to do this. They will probably see things that will anger them. But attacking the mob with your guns would see you all going to jail for murder. That's not the results you are after.
Plan Your Tactics Carefully
If you're going to make a show of force, it's important to plan your tactics carefully. You have to realize that some will see your guns as a challenge. One possibility is that the organizers of the mob might look at your guns as a means to inflame the situation. If that's the case, they might take a pot shot at you, just to try and get you to shoot up the crowd.
Part of your tactical preparation needs to be good firing positions. You don't want to be all bunched in front of the store, standing there and waiting. Maybe a few of you should be there, making the obvious show of force, while others are looking out of upstairs windows or from the roof, watching for the gunman in the crowd.
Establish your rules of engagement carefully. At what point will you start firing and at who? The last thing you want is to just start firing into the crowd indiscriminately. Any shooting should be at particular targets who have demonstrated that they are a threat. Remember, the law limits your actions, just like it limits the actions of the mob; and while a shooter in the mob might be hidden by the anonymity of being hidden in the mob, you and your team aren't. It will be much easier to prosecute you, than them.
You want to make sure that everything you're doing is legal. Check your state's firearm laws, specifically those which refer to concealed and open carry. You don't want to start out by breaking the law. Make contact with the police as well, letting them know that you'll be on site, protecting your property. They may not like that and they may try to talk you out of it; but it is your right.
Finally, make sure that your team can stay safe, no matter what happens to your store. Ultimately, the store and everything in it can be replaced, but people can't. If you have body armor use it. If not, have something you and your team can get behind, to protect you from harm.Riding out a mob situation is tense. Things can change quickly, from moment to moment and you never know what is going to happen. But with care, you can ride it out without any serious problem. Being ready sends a strong message to the mob, one that they aren't likely to ignore. It worked for those business owners in Ferguson and it's likely to work just as well for you.